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Providing Healthcare is Complicated and Expensive - Communications Isn't

Healthcare reform is complicated. Figuring out how to provide healthcare for millions of uninsured and underinsured patients is expensive. But merely providing information should be neither complicated nor expensive. That’s why we were surprised by the results of a new study among hundreds of physicians in the U.S. that poor communication with Hispanic patients is adversely affecting the quality of care to this country’s largest minority group.

The main focus of the study, which surveyed 422 physicians across the country, was to uncover barriers in receiving adequate treatment and measure the effectiveness of communication vehicles in educating Hispanic patients about their health.

One of the most important findings was related to obstacles physicians encountered in effectively treating Hispanic patients. Twenty-four percent of physicians cited poor patient understanding of disease severity was “almost always a barrier” to treatment and 21% cited it as “frequently a barrier.” Other factors cited by physicians as almost always being a barrier to treatment were preconceived notions/myths (23% of physicians) and conflicting advice about treatment from family members (21% of physicians).

Despite these barriers, nearly 50% of respondents cited that community organizations, physicians, physician assistants and nurses are among those doing the most effective job at communicating about healthcare issues with Hispanic patients. On the other hand, most physicians think that pharmaceutical companies do a poor job of communicating, lacking a thorough understanding of multicultural patient needs. In fact, only 12% reported that pharmaceutical companies understand the healthcare needs of Hispanic patients very well. Even fewer physicians (7%) indicated that pharmaceutical companies are doing an adequate job in communicating with Hispanics about solutions to their healthcare needs.

One thing we know from our business is that it doesn’t require a multimillion dollar advertising commitment to educate patients and their families. Editors and journalists at traditional publications and online media can help spread the word. And, digital communications opens up a universe of possibilities, many at relatively minimal cost. We may not be able to get medication and treatment to everyone who needs it this year, but we should at least be able to get them the information they need to make more informed decisions about their health.


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